There have been other intercollegiate dynasties. The UCLA basketball Bruins of the ’60s and ’70s under Coach John Wooden, the Alabama Crimson Tide football team in recent decades under Nick Saban, the UConn women’s basketball team under Geno Auriemma, but when it comes to flying, no one holds a candle to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Prescott, which recently picked up its 13th National Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference championship. It has also won 35 consecutive regional championships.
The 2021 competition featured 28 teams from across the country that went wing-to-wing in events ranging from navigation to aircraft recognition.
If you were wondering, because we were, the COVID-19 pandemic did present huge obstacles to ERAU Prescott’s team (along with those from every other university in the competition), wreaking havoc with practice schedules, in-Person meetings, planning sessions and more.
But even more, the nationwide lockdown also forced the usually in-person event into cyberspace for the first time ever. That made the competition really different than any previous year, though the result was most familiar.
While the pandemic posed the biggest challenge to the team this year, affecting practice schedules, protocols and procedures, the Golden Eagles were up to the challenge. Additionally, competition, normally held in-person by one of the competing universities, took place virtually.
Head coach Shaun Shephard summed up the experience, “I am so proud of the team’s level of perseverance and the many obstacles that we had to overcome in the last 10 months,” he said, noting, “We had an extended winter break, our regionals were pushed to February, all of our meetings and practices were socially distanced and we had very little time for the team to come together. We were taken out of our comfort zone.”
The team is already busy preparing for next year’s fly-offs. We’re not sure if NIFA SAFECON 2022 is on Vegas’ radar, but if it is, the Golden Eagles of ERAU-Prescott would be the odds-on favorites, once again.